For the past couple of years, I have been involved in the "Behind The Big House" Tour in Holly Springs, MS, the birthplace of journalist and anti-lynching activist, my shero, Ida B. Wells.
Behind the Big House was developed to interpreting slavery, by private homeowners, who open slave houses on their property to the public for interpreters, such as myself, to educate tourists and students the story of the enslaved men, women and children who were kept and toiled in Holly Springs. The program was formed in 2012 by Chelius Carter and Jenifer Eggleston, who bought the Hugh Craft House. Built in 1851, Hugh Craft House is locally recognized as the first of the "big houses" during the town's initially affluence preceding the King Cotton era of the late 1850s.
Hugh Craft House had slave quarters with a detached kitchen. The 1860 Marshall County Slave Census shows nine enslaved people at the house.
There's also an exhibit of historic findings that were found from the Hugh Craft House and slave quarters.
The program is run through Preserve Marshall County and Holly Springs Inc., which gets its funding from the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, and the Holly Springs Tourism and Recreation Bureau.
Due to the global pandemic, the 2020 Behind the Big House Program was canceled. I was looking forward to returning to Holly Springs. I want to share some of my photos from the past Behind the Big House programs.
For the past six years, Culinary Historian Michael W. Twitty, author of "The Cooking Gene," earning him the 2018 James Beard Award's Book of the Year, conducted antebellum cooking demonstrations.
He's made some amazing dishes such as okra stew, fried chicken, homemade biscuits, red field pies, rabbit, dumplings, country captain, sweet potato cornbread, etc.
I always look forward to not only eating Twitty's mouth-watering dishes, but he would put me to work in the kitchen. It was intimidating when he gives me instructions on how to prep a dish and I look at him like he was speaking a foreign language lol. He was very patient with me and he showed me how to make homemade biscuits and pie crust.
I even saw how a pig was cut up. When the men were cutting it up, I thought of Wilbur, the pig, from the book "Charlotte's Web."
Joseph McGill, founder of The Slave Dwelling Project, Inc., for ten years, has been providing insight on the lives of enslaved men, women and children who lived and toiled on the site. McGill has slept in 100+ slave dwellings to raise awareness of the importance of preserving these structures and the history of slavery.
Artisan, Wayne Jones, and Dale DeBerry, provided 19th-century brick making demonstrations. A plantation I visited in South Carolina, told me that an enslaved brickmaker had to make 3,000 bricks per day.
I had the opportunity to sleep in the slave quarters at Hugh Craft.
I went from volunteering to interpreting at the Hugh Craft House as a laundress during the antebellum era demonstrating how enslaved women had the daunting and grueling task of doing laundry that took several days to complete.
I went to Burton's Place Mansion to see the original slave quarters down the street from Hugh Craft House. The mansion was the home of Mary Marvina Shields. She owned 80 slaves.